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Some Personal Experiences With PRAYOG

Some Personal Experiences With PRAYOG

The enthusiasm for ‘Prayog’ is growing with geometric progression in my life. Many things have changed in the past 6 months. Prayog is in existence for past 3 months only and it is growing just like the ‘tooth’ of my one and a half year old baby: learning to enjoy the new variety of foods every month! I have the ever growing support of my 5 friends who keep me motivating always, whenever the battery is down.

Many things have not taken place as planned. The idea of starting Prayog with a ‘scholarship’ program for the youth is in the backstage now. There are so many critical areas we need to work for the children of this country residing in the villages. They have little, in fact no access to so many things. They do not know what to do ahead in life, and majority of them will drop out after high school, if not middle school. Because, they do not know the purpose of what they are learning. People may say, even the blessed ones in the cities do not know during school days. But, they can afford to continue with higher studies. In villages, majority of the students cannot afford after a certain level.

When I am with these students for a couple of days and nights, I see a number of kids standing around outside, holding the bamboo made boundary. I call them inside and many of the students, who are sitting inside, say: “these children are not meant for studying”. It is not difficult for me to understand because children often have a tendency to repeat on the lines of what they listen from the elderly. These are not their views, these are the views of their milieu. When I was there last time, some 10 women from the dalit tola asked me whether this is meant for their children or not? I was surprised as I had seen their children using the resources of library. They said that some children are not allowing them to use library. The problem here is not children, rather the message that roars in their mind during the growing-up days. They haven’t heard anything good about the dalits and hence their view. I explained it to everyone that Prayog is for everyone’s benefit and no distinction is made on the basis of age, sex, caste, class or religion. Children understand everything, when explained.

It feels glittering when I listen girls demanding for a ‘bat’ and ‘ball’ to play cricket. The happiest moment is when you see the eyes of these children and the enthusiasm that is created for these 2 days and 2 nights. Children from distant villages spending their days and evenings, playing together at times. Their roar when the generator starts and their rushing towards the classroom to occupy the front space. And the silence with which they watch the ‘knowledge package’ through a projector.

When a certain ‘Golu Kumar’, who belongs to a lower caste, takes me to a corner and says: “Sir, I belong to a very poor family”. What would you expect next words from him? He continues, “and my parents do not teach me mannerisms. Please help me do good in life”. His words make me feel like crying and as if someone has slapped tightly over my face.

What am I going to do? And have I taken a right decision by initiating something like Prayog? Will I be able to continue it? There is no option left with me now apart from continuing it. Else, I will be cheating with numerous Golu Kumar’s who are seeing a ray of hope in their life. What response would I give to those girls who are expecting atleast a bat from Prayog. I can’t play with their expectations. And the more than 100 odd girls and boys who are daring to come out of their houses even during the nights, to learn something new, something different and something innovative. And what would I say to my 5 supportive friends, that one night I had a fantasy and I cannot continue this anymore, sorry dudes!

When there is a passion to do something that you like nothing stops you, not even the worst fears. Prayog’s action place at Gopalganj is 200 kms from Patna, where I currently stay. And the roads are so deteriorated: people say that there is road in the holes rather holes in the road. Around a year ago, it was a 4-5 hour drive from here, now it takes at least 8 hours to reach there. When my mentor, Prof. Mishra calls me and says, “beta, my neighbour from Gopalganj has just arrived and his SUV is badly damaged because of the bad road”, he tries his best to terrorise me and checks my passion level. When my mother hears this and says me not to go this time, I try to convince her that so many children would be waiting to learn something new.

There are times when you think that God makes some connections without telephone. One, Tinku, who often goes with me whenever I visit a distant place. I tried his number so many times last month and he could not be reached. On Monday, at 7 am while I was returning from Gopalganj, he calls me and says: “Sir, I just woke up after a dream and saw that you were asking me to accompany you to Gopalganj”. I started laughing, and replied that had you dreamt this atleast 2 days ago, you would have been with me now.

While I was teaching computers to the children, I was getting continuous calls from my wife. At last I picked and told her that I would call back in a while. She says, “your child has started calling you..papa…and I could listen the …papapapapapappapappapapapa….in the background”. I felt so elated!

I am extremely thankful to a man, Manish Bhardwaj, who is not from Bihar but has been working day and night for the people living with Tuberculosis. He is a Ph.D from Massachussetts Institute of Technology, USA and runs a successful firm over there. And what had he to do with people of Bihar? Neither are his ancestral roots here. But he works for them with such a passion that is unmatchable. There is a need of several Manish Bhardwaj’s in the society today. The contribution can be in any well-meaning form. I am highly influenced by him!

All my friends and dear ones who are reading my experiences with Prayog, let me let you know that it takes nothing except the passion to do something well-meaning for the society. This society needs your innovative thoughts and rich vision. There will be ups and downs but you will be never left alone. So, do whatever you like because one ‘small initiative’ cannot work in entire Bihar or UP or any other state. Lakhs of such ‘small initiatives’ will make this world a beautiful place!

We Hit Consecutive Centuries On Debut Of ‘Night Classes’ : Numbers Do Matter!

We Hit Consecutive Centuries On Debut Of ‘Night Classes’ : Numbers Do Matter!

PRAYOG has been making efforts to engage children in all activities with a passion. Last month, we announced for 2 sessions of night classes whereby they would be getting some modules on computer education and English grammar. They were pretty excited but we never expected that more than 100 children would attend these sessions daily and that too coming from far away villages. We ensured power supply through a generator, the area is otherwise completely in dark.
Children’s energy level is never ending. These session were conducted on Saturday – Sunday. The idea is to top – up their vision and show them something new, teach them in a different way from their formal education system. The day begins at 10 am and sessions continue from 10 am – 1pm, 3 pm – 5 pm and 6 pm – 8:30 pm. Participation of girls from all sections of the society was an encouraging fact. But, we are concerned for the girls security while their way back to home. Some 50 girls were present on both the days and night classes. There was an announcement that girls may return to home after 8 pm and to our shock, the unanimous reply was  “are we less than boys in any sense ” !
Hand held projector being used as a teaching aid
Some explanations!
Shubham’s reflection of a laptop
Morning session
A 51 minute capsule on English grammar by Mr. Pradeep Prasad
 PRAYOG is thankful to people sitting off in distant places of world, be it Washington DC, Germany or Mumbai but are contributing to the cause by their sheer motivation. Anupap Anand, one of the founding members, who is a Ph.D scholar at University of Maryland, Washington DC has sent the handheld projector device from US. His video that described his research work and his vision for PRAYOG brought in smiles for over hundred students. He also arranged for a virtual tour of his University and then way back to Gopalganj in Bihar, students were curious!

Abhishek, who is also a founding member and works with Castrol India private limited in Mumbai. His video was motivating for the children to develop a habit of book reading.

We are very thankful to Mr. Pradeep Prasad, a software engineer who works in Germany these days for a wonderful 51 minutes video on English grammar. Even teachers present there appreciated his efforts and of-course his teaching skills and commitment.

This is the power of e-education. A video has been prepared where students have raised their queries to the presenters, this would be sent to them and we expect their replies in next months night classes.

For individuals like Mr. Pradeep, we are thriving!

Letters to Teachers

Letters to Teachers

Teachers have always played a significant role in shaping every individual’s life.

Please click the link below to see what students at PRAYOG’s catchment area of 6 Government schools have to say about their teachers:

Mere Sapno ki Duniya (The world of my dreams)

Mere Sapno ki Duniya

(The world of my dreams) 

Dreams are the means to fulfill desires of one’s life, the socio-politico construct that surrounds an individual. It is the ‘dream’ that has inspired men to achieve something ‘other than’ ordinary and improved their life since ages.
Pankaj belongs to a dalit family, his father being a daily wage earner and mother is a cook with the mid-day meal program in the neighbouring Government middle school at Semra (a remote village in Gopalganj, 24 kms away from the district headquarter). There was huge resistance when people got to know that a dalit woman would be cooking meals for their children, but the matter was solved only when the headmistress, who was from upper caste,  convinced them and ate the food first.
As every child does, Pankaj dreams as well and dreams a lot. The articulation of his desires and belongingness to the community is quite a significant reflection. Though, there are so many children like Pankaj who dream but lose the courage and passion to fulfill them, or even give it a try. They drop-out from the formal education system and move out to become the bread earner for their family and themselves. They kill their own desires.
Let us see what Pankaj tells us about his dreams and pledge to ensure that we help him fulfill his dreams. PRAYOG stands by him and he is one of the recepients of solar study lamp and amongst the 5 children selected for a week long exposure visit.

An Event Essaying Children’s Concerns And Worldview

An Event Essaying Children’s Concerns And Worldview

As mentioned earlier, children at PRAYOG’s baal bagicha wrote essays on three topics: mid day meal tragedy at Chapra, a letter to mother earth and the world of their dreams. We had to meet on August 10 and 11th to share the essays and decide on the best 10 essays as well as select 5 children who would be sent to a week long exposure visit in October.
On 9th evening, I got numerous calls from children whether I am visiting them or not. Their sweet voices echoed throughout the journey next day. 21 children (9 girls and 12 boys) participated in the event. Some of the children were out-of- village for personal work and could not participate.
14 children wrote on the above three topics. While the maximum coverage was on mid-day meal tragedy at Chapra, only one essay was on the world of their dreams. This was by a dalit boy.

Out of all, three essays being the microcosm of all the essays can be read by clicking the link below:

1. The world of my dreams – Pankaj Kumar

2. A letter to mother earth thanking her for the natural resources – Brijesh Kumar

3. Mid-day meal tragedy at Chapra and how can any such incidence by prevented – Ayush Kumar

The essays reflect a sense of empathy in the children. A dalit boy writes about his dream and fantasies but is realistic enough and mentions that ‘he wakes up and finds himself on his bed, the world of dreams is very sweet’. The question now arises is whether individuals/ institutions / organizations are actually working to convert the dreams of so many Pankajs into reality. Brijesh realises that earth is bearing the burden of man’s atrocities but is still calm. In his letter, he has a sense of gratitude and thanks the earth for giving everything to us despite the spurious nature of man by reciprocating with exploitation of these resources. Ayush cited various reasons why the mid-day tragedy took place at Chapra and according to him negligence was a major factor. He then suggests that provision of trained cooks/ additional cooks, packed foods could prevent the occurence of any such incidence. Ayush also comments that Government should de-burden the involvement of Pricipals/teachers in mid-day meal activities as they cannot perform their prime duties because of this.
11 children (10 prize winners) of the essay competition along with solar study lamps as a prize 
It was informed to the member students, each of the 10 best essays would receive solar study lamps as a prize. But, 11 essays were selected. How did the 11th child get this opportunity to win the prize? The essays were judged only on the basis of their vision and content. 11 essays were shortlisted as 2 of them scored equally. But, the total number of prizes was only 10. When the result was declared, one Aakash Kumar agreed to share his prize to the 11th student as his siblings had also won the prize.
The 11 students were then given some time to prepare for a debate on their topics. There were 3 judges and 4 elderly from the village also participated quite vocally in the event.
Debate in progress  
Our mentor, Shri Chabinath Rai declaring the result 
(L-R: Aakanksha Kumari, Sanya Rai, Brijesh Kumar, Ayush Kumar, Pankaj Kumar Ram)
5 children selected for the week long exposure visit in October, 2013 (L-R: Aakanksha Kumari, Sanya Rai, Brijesh Kumar, Ayush Kumar, Pankaj Kumar Ram)
Towards the end of the event, 5 students were selected for the proposed exposure visit in Siwan for a week long rural immersion program. The students also proposed that there would be a weekly meeting whereby they will discuss on requirements of books, tuition or any other relevant activities.
A motivating incident for PRAYOG: While we were about to end the session, 3 girls from the nearby dalit tola came on their own and expressed their willingness to join the library. One of them, Pooja Kumari who is pursuing her graduation (home science) informed that she came to know about this initiative from her elder brother. She and some of the other girls of her tola then visited the library and entered their names in the library register on their. They read some of the books and also took back some of the books to their home. But, someone in her tola informed them that these books are not to be issued and meant only for reading in the library site. The girls then immediately returned the books.
We at PRAYOG are excited to learn this response from the community. The response teaches us how effectively a library be managed by the community. The library is at a open space. In term of infrastructure, there is a steel almirah, a box, some games equipments like badminton set, canvas balls etc and of course 50 books and 10 periodicals. We are now trying to expand the number of books and other reading materials, which is easily possible.
PRAYOG’s Baal Bagicha

An Attempt To Understand The Mid-Day Meal Tragedy In Chappra

An Attempt To Understand The Mid-Day Meal Tragedy In Chappra

It has been just few days that 23 children died in the mid-day meal tragedy in Chapra. Those who survived are still facing threats of poison and only time would reveal their health scenario as they grow up. What actually was meant to nourish the children, perished them.

Last month, I visited a Government middle school in Samastipur district of Bihar. The local ward councillor (elected representative) is a friend and he was getting phone calls by the headmaster to come to the school. When I noticed that the number of calls was more than 10 within a span of 2 hours, I asked him. He told me that today there is a cash distribution in school for dress materials. I went with him to the school just to see what happens in the event. I was shocked to see teachers carrying bundles of notes and distributing to the children, only after verification. Can anyone guess what would be the condition of those teachers? Why are there no accountants to carry forward the process of cash distribution?

Similarly, it is the duty of the headmaster/teachers to purchase items for preparing daily meals for the successful implementation of mid-day meal programme. They have to ensure the quality as well! And we say that the quality of education in rural schools should not be compromised.

We should be thankful to the ‘omni-present’ who saves our rural children, daily. We at PRAYOG are committed to the all round development of rural youth and provide them with all the resources and exposure.

PRAYOG started its initiative with the rural library ‘baal bagicha’ in Gopalganj. In October 2013, 5 children are to participate in a week long rural immersion program at Siwan. These children will be shortlisted based on their worldviews. They have been asked to write an essay on any of the below mentioned topics:

  • a letter to Mother Earth, thanking her for all the natural resources provided to us
  • the mid-day meal tragedy in Chapra. Your insights on mid-day meal and how can any such incidence be prevented in future
  • the world of your dreams
10 best essays would be selected and a debate competition would be followed.
I am waiting for their answers on the mid-day meal. Nothing much would be a more practical answer than what would be revealed by those who actually consume the meal. And children seldom say wrong. I shall update again via a new post when these activities are conducted on August 10 and 11.

Rural Immersion for Rural Youth

Rural Immersion for Rural Youth

With the efforts from our mentor, Prof. Rajeshwar Mishra (ex-professor, AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences), 5 children from Prayog’s ‘baal bagicha’ would be participating in the Rural Immersion Programme (RIP) of Takshila Education Society, at Narendrapur in Siwan.

This programme will run for a week in the month of October, 2013 where around 500 school children from various parts of the country work together on various tasks assigned to them. At the end of the exercise, they develop a model for each of the social concerns they worked on as a team. Cultural activities, particularly SPIC-MACAY is also witnessed in the event.Prayog aims to provide exposure to the rural children and what better than this platform?

Current Stock In The Community Library

Current Stock In The Community Library


Link to list of books, periodicals and newspapers
This is the current stock of reading materials in the library. The library has started with 31 books under various categories, which is actually motivating the youth. All the books are newly purchased and Prayog insists on book donations from those who have a willingness to contribute to the rural youth.

Suggestions are also invited for inclusion of any such book, magazine etc that would prove to be beneficial for the vision building of rural youth.

We can be contacted at:

Children As Decision Makers

Children As Decision Makers 

The brains behind the education initiative, starting with a village library at Gopalganj in Bihar, discussed on several operational aspects of the library. The discussions ranged from identifying mentors to allocation of a safe place where the library’s resources should be kept. Also, how will the children be managed? Alas, with every passing moment while sitting with such bright children, things turned out to be so simple!
The initial lot of 24 children assembled in the ‘cultural centre’ of the village. This space was suggested by the mentor, Shri Chabinath Rai, who is also a retired teacher from the same village. He always has been a source of inspiration owing to his passion for the education of all. Though, we had a discussion with all the children for a perfect venue as there is also a nearby Government primary school which can be utilised for the purpose. Their response was overwhelming as they just demanded a ‘mat’ to sit and read. Prayog gave them an option for arranging chairs/ desks and bench but it was rejected by them citing that most of them sit on mats in their schools. They also asked for a box or almirah where the resources of library can be kept safely.
A huge mat which can easily be used for sitting 40 children as well as a trunk box has been arranged for the library. An almirah is due where books can be kept serially. Each member was also provided a register and pen.
Activities that motivated the children:
We often read and hear to keep things simple. In the beginning, there was a knock-out game played by all the members. The game was the simplest one that most of us have played while sitting as back benchers in our student days, ‘tic-tac-toe’. One, Ayush Kumar who is a Class 8th student emerged as the champion defeating students of Class 10th as well as the lone under-grad in the lot. Ayush, is the youngest son of Shri Arvind Rai and Smt. Neelam Rai, both of whom are teachers in the village school. The game proved to be an energizer!
Knock-out round in progress  
Knockout Round in Progress
This was followed by a round of introduction, where children were paired. Each pair had to give an introduction of their partner. This was such a fun! They asked for some time to discuss with their partners, spread out from the venue and moved to the fields near by school and returned in 15 minutes.
Shubham Kumar introducing Sonali Kumari (to his left in the pic)
After the ice-breaking exercise, a format was circulated to each one of them. This format was to know more about them and to keep a record. The questions were on personal details, family background, age and class of study, their interests in the ongoing education they are getting, their aspirations, how would they benefit from the library and their vision for the future of this library.
Responding a questionnaire on their thoughts and aspirations and personal details
Mangerial skills of children is something that should always be kept in mind. It is this basic instinct that we mis-judge while their growing days. When given a challenge of how to take care of all the children through this initiative, one Akash Kumar suggested to break-down into groups that would be easily manageable. Four groups have been formed with each group having a captain. The captains were nominated through discussions amongst the group members with each group having justifications for nomination.
Group captains (L-R: Akanksha, Sandeep, Akash and Manmohan) labelling the books
Besides all this, the group discussion has also lead to provide a structure to the library. They decided on the use of register and framed a ‘rule book’ for running the library.

PRAYOG Starts its Community Library ‘Baal Bagicha’ in Gopalganj, Bihar on June 15th, 2013


PRAYOG Starts its Community Library ‘Baal Bagicha’ in Gopalganj, Bihar on June 15th, 2013


Starting of the Community Library on June 15th, 2013

If you want a change, just do something! Rather than having discussions over it and waiting for the right time. This is the working philosophy behind PRAYOG. ‘PRAYOG’, which means experiment, signifies various possible designs to bring about even a small change.

Contrary to our perception, youth have all sorts of fantasies in life! And how good would it be to shape them. In the month of May, 2013 when the first interaction took place with six students of high school in Gopalganj, their aspirations were something that triggered the concept of enriching their vision. Apart from  the traditional choices amongst youth in the villages such as joining the armed forces, the response of two students – Alok and Akash was quite different. Alok aspires to become a model while Akash wants to pursue higher education with Physics as major subject and aims to become a Professor some day. How many students of a high school actually want to join academics by choice and how many dare to even think of becoming a model?

Prayog is an alliance of thoughts of four individuals from varied sectors, each with a vision to instill enthusiasm, vision and exposure to the youth of villages in north Bihar. With the ‘Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan’, already running successfully in the state, the Prayog team aims to influence the vision of rural youth, who are already talented but lack an exposure to the outside world. Based on the personal experiences which each of the four members faced in their village, an education initiative has been planned whereby ‘rural fellows’ would  be identified and mentored, who in turn will mentor the other children who lack resources for proper education or are left-out in the course of schooling because of no mentoring at home.

To start the fellowship initiative it was crucial to understand the needs of the youth, their daily activities, preferences and approach towards life. Prayog has hence started a rural library aiming to create a space for interaction amongst the youth and a common place for learning through a different approach. This is the ‘baal bagicha’ (children orchard) which will bear the fruits in the form of enlightened minds! The library has started with a collection of 32 books in following categories: tales, mythology, eminent personalities, inspirational stories, Gandhi collection, general knowledge and IQ, science, language, atlas, dictionary, periodicals and a daily newspaper. There are 24 members enrolled in primary school to University who are the current beneficiaries of this initiative. Books and youth will keep on ever increasing!